Undlin the Elixir?

Posted: July 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 95 Comments »

Cory Undlin is the Eagles new DBs coach. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but the secondary was so bad last year that his hiring has generated lots of discussion. Most people think hiring Undlin was a great move that will help the Eagles secondary to play better in 2015.

Dave Mangels wrote a very interesting piece for BGN recently about Undlin. He compared this hire with bringing in Todd Bowles to fix the secondary in 2012. (here are some snippets, but do yourself a favor and go read the whole piece)

Undlin is seen as the breath of fresh air who will correct the flaws of a broken secondary. And he very well may be. But we’ve seen this story before, and it had a bitter ending.

Todd Bowles came to the Eagles with an even better reputation than Undlin. Bowles had been the assistant head coach/secondary coach for the Dolphins and was elevated to interim head coach after Tony Sparano was fired in December of 2011. He interviewed for head coaching jobs and was considered a prime candidate to be a defensive coordinator. He wound up taking the Eagles DB coach job and was tasked with improving a poorly performing secondary. Expectations and plaudits were high.

And

Todd Bowles was and remains a good coach. He came into a helpless situation and couldn’t improve it. When he was given complete control of the Eagles defense, it actually got worse. “Players would play hard for Bowles” was the key talking point when he replaced Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator, but they didn’t and the Eagles continued to spiral into the abyss. Since then he put together a terrific defense with theCardinals and then was deservedly hired as head coach of the Jets. Todd Bowles wasn’t the problem, but he wasn’t the solution either, the systemic problems of the end of the Andy Reid era were too great for a position coach to correct.

Mangels makes a great point that we cannot count on a position coach to magically fix a unit, no matter how good his resume is. However, he is a bit off with the Bowles discussion.

Bowles actually did help the secondary. He was strictly the DBs coach for the first 6 weeks. Then came the bye, when Juan Castillo was fired. Bowles took over as DC after that.

In his 6 weeks as just the DBs coach, the defense was ranked 12th in yards and 13th in points. The Eagles gave up 6 TD passes and had 7 INTs. QBs completed just 52.7 percent of their passes. And the Eagles were facing 38 passes a game. Teams were trying to throw on them. Rookie Brandon Weeden was especially awful, but the Eagles also faced Eli, Big Ben, Joe Flacco and Matt Stafford.

Castillo’s firing changed everything. Some players were very bothered by it, most notably DRC. He wasn’t the same guy after Juan left. Making matters worse, his position coach now ran the defense and had less time to spend with him. The Eagles then gave up 7 TD passes in the next 3 games. They didn’t have any picks. There was the infamous run of QBs compiling passer ratings of 125 or higher. The season became a real nightmare.

Bowles was trying to run a scheme he didn’t believe in and doing so in a toxic environment. DL coach Jim Washburn loved his players, but didn’t help to unify the defense. There was his DL and then the rest of the defense and then the rest of the team.

The results were predictably bad.

Had Castillo not been fired and Bowles stayed strictly as DBs coach, that defense doesn’t fall apart like that and give up those gaudy numbers. There would have been some bad games to be sure, but nothing like that epic collapse.

I feel pretty confident in saying that Bill Davis won’t be fired at the bye week this year and that Cory Undlin won’t be running the Eagles defense. Reid was a desperate coach. He thought firing Castillo might spark the defense. He was…wrong. Chip Kelly is desperate to win, but not because his job is on the line. He wants to win, but doesn’t have the normal 5-year plan that so many NFL coaches talk about.

There are no guarantees that Undlin is going to turn out to be a good hire. He does have a good track record. He does seem to fit the scheme. Most importantly, he does have some new talent to work with. If Kelly had handed last year’s secondary to Undlin and said “Fix it!” then I think this situation would be a lot more iffy.

The 2015 secondary doesn’t have to be dominant. They just need to cut down on the long pass plays. Eliminate some key mistakes and the team should be that much better. A couple of plays may have cost the Eagles a couple of wins last year.

* * * * *

An interesting comparison for Undlin might be Howard Mudd. He took over the OL in 2011. The Eagles had Jason Peters at LT and Todd Herremans somewhere. They drafted Danny Watkins to be the RG and Jason Kelce to be the C. The team signed mostly unknown Evan Mathis to compete for a job and he ended up winning the LG spot. When no one else worked out at RT, Herremans was moved there and the OL had a good year.

The right position coach can lead to a big turnaround. And sometimes giving that coach new pieces to work with can make a big difference. Mudd shuffled his guys around until he found 5 he liked and he figured out how best to configure them.

Undlin will have a versatile secondary to work with this year. He can move players around until he finds the right 4 to 5 guys and the best way to use them.

If Walter Thurmond turns out to be the Safety version of Evan Mathis, we’ll all be ecstatic. If he turns out to be Ryan Harris, that’s not so good.

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Bobby April ran the Eagles STs from 2010-2012. He was thought of as one of the 2 or 3 best STs gurus in the NFL at that time. I thought hiring him was a brilliant move.

Oops.

The Eagles were ranked 17th in STs in 2009. April was hired to get them up among the best in the league. There was improvement in 2010 as the Eagles finished 14th. Things went horribly wrong after that. The Eagles fell to 20th in 2011 and then plummeted to 28th in 2012.

April had no excuses. He had some good pieces to work with and just didn’t get results. Reid might not have focused on STs the way Kelly does now, but April should have produced better results.

To me, April is the best recent example of a coach that was hired to fix a unit, but didn’t. Good intentions. Bad results.

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Ryan Day

Posted: July 5th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 35 Comments »

Chip Kelly runs the Eagles offense. Pat Shurmur is the passing game guru. Ryan Day is here to coach the QBs.

Day is the third QB coach in 3 years. It isn’t that Kelly can’t find the right guy, his QB coaches keep getting hired to go somewhere else for a better job. Bill Lazor (now the OC in Miami) and Bill Musgrave (now the OC in Oakland) both had NFL backgrounds. Day comes straight from the college ranks. How will he do?

Tim McManus wrote a good piece about Day recently.

Ryan Day played quarterback for Chip Kelly when the coach was in full-out mad scientist mode. Serving as New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator at the time, Kelly rotated offensive systems in and out at a dizzying pace as he searched for the perfect concoction. Day was the signal-caller in the middle of the whirlwind.

“At that time, we were changing offenses every week. We would go from Run ‘n Shoot to the Wing-T to the Veer. One week we threw it six times, the next week we threw it 65 times,” Day recalled. “Coach kind of had a laboratory there, and it was a lot of fun to be around.”

So much fun that Day found it hard to pull himself away — much to the detriment of his grade point average.

“Coach used to laugh: when I was in college, in the spring I would get like a 3.0 but in the fall I would be around a 1.5,” he said. “I used to spend pretty much the whole fall in there listening to the meetings, listening to some of the game-planning and kind of learning how that went, which is kind of why I became a coach. I just liked it and I got around Coach and he made it exciting for me. Maybe without that, I wouldn’t have gotten into coaching.”

Kelly gave Day his first gig, making him New Hampshire’s tight ends coach following his senior year. His career path since has led him from Boston to Philly and back again a couple times over. A grad assistant at Boston College (2003-04) and Florida (’05), Day was hired as Temple’s wide receivers coach in ’06. He left for the same position at BC and remained there for five years before heading back to Philadelphia to become the Owls’ offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach in ’12. Then it was back to BC, where he served as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach before Kelly scooped him up this offseason to coach the Eagles’ QBs. Day had been following Kelly’s career from afar and enjoyed watching the evolution of his offense as he took it from New Hampshire to Oregon and then to the NFL. With connections to both the city and the Eagles coaching staff, he viewed this as the right time and opportunity to move his young family.

It will be very interesting to see how Day does this year. Lazor got great results in 2013, but was very tough on his QBs. From an article by Jeff McLane:

Lazor was credited with helping to develop Foles during his record-setting second season, but the two occasionally butted heads over the coach’s intensity, according to a source familiar with the relationship.

Musgrave was supposed to be more of a player-friendly coach. Last year’s results were far from ideal. How much of that had to do with the QB coaching is impossible to say. There were OL injuries to deal with. Defensive coaches had a year of tape to study so the element of surprise was gone.

We don’t know what kind of coach Day will be. My guess is that he will be demanding. Day played for Kelly at UNH and Kelly was very tough on his QBs. Here are some comments from Tyler Murphy, who just played QB for Day at Boston College.

“Coach Day is a down-to-earth kind of guy. If I feel like something’s wrong or I’m not comfortable with something, I can just go right to him. I don’t have to hesitate; I can just say it. He’s not afraid to tell me if I’m doing a bad job at this, or if I’m not doing a good job leading. As a veteran, you have to be sure you’re doing the right things and setting the right example for the younger players. We’ve built a bond and I don’t want to let him down,” Murphy said.

Interesting that Murphy brought up leadership. That was the top priority for Day when dealing with college QBs. Here Day is talking about Chase Rettig, his QB at BC in 2013.

Day will have to stress a lot more with mechanics and fundamentals now that he’s working with NFL passers. Being a gritty game manager isn’t enough at this level. Obviously Kelly thinks Day can do that kind of teaching.

One advantage Day does have is that he played in Kelly’s system. He can talk to QBs about what he did in this system.

It is way too early to have any idea of how Day will do. You can be encouraged by the fact that Mark Sanchez had a good spring and Matt Barkley just played the best football of his young career. The real test will be to see how Day does with Sam Bradford. We’re still a month away from getting any info on that situation.

If Day does a good job with the QBs, it will help the Eagles to have another big year on offense and it will solidify Day’s status as one of the hot young coaches in football.

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Looking Back – 2005

Posted: July 3rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 71 Comments »

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet recently. I was wrapping up a couple of long pieces for The Eagles Almanac. I wrote a draft review and a piece on the 2005 season.

While doing some research on 2005, I stumbled across all kinds of wild info.

* The total number of players who kicked a ball for the Eagles that year…9. Stop and think about that for a second. Nine different guys either punted, kicked off, tried an extra point or field goal. Insane.

Test yourself. How many of the 9 can you name? Answers will be below.

* Think about how good the Safety depth chart looked at one point.

FS – Brian Dawkins …  JR Reed
SS – Michael Lewis …. Quintin Mikell

Reed got hurt in the offseason and the Eagles drafted Sean Considine to replace him.

Don’t look at the current depth chart for a while or you will get depressed

* LS/TE Mike Bartrum had more TD catches (2) than starting WR Greg Lewis (1).

* Reno Mahe actually did a good job on PRs. He averaged 12.8 yards per PR that season. He wasn’t a home run threat, but that’s a good average.

I don’t want to get into too much because I want to keep so many other of the crazy stories for the piece in the Eagles Almanac.

* * * * *

While looking back at 2005 stuff, I stumbled across some notes on a young Buffalo Bills player I watched in the preseason.

* Jason Peters – TE/LT…comes off the ball very well…good feet…good job of extending his arms…looks alert/smart…uses hands well…beaten wide by KGB, but recovered and rode him deep past the QB…very good at mirroring the DE…excellent hand punch…very disciplined…good wide base…needs to get better push on DL in the run game…pulls okay, but room for improvement… missed block that led to TFL…adjusted well to stunts…good STer…took out 2 guys on long KOR vs GB

You might have heard of that young man.    Read the rest of this entry »


Interesting Argument

Posted: July 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 204 Comments »

One of the most complicated things about the Eagles under Chip Kelly is trying to figure out the defense. Is it awful? Is it somehow underrated? How do you accurately judge the defense for a team that runs the fastest offense in the league and faces the most snaps?

Jimmy Bama wrote an interesting piece on the O/D and how you can argue the offense was overrated last year, but the defense was actually underrated.

The defense showed real signs of potential, but you also can’t excuse some of the huge mistakes they made as having anything to do with the style of offense. At the very least, it is fair to call the defense flawed.

If Bill Davis and the players can eliminate some of the big plays they gave up last year, the unit could take a big step forward this season. With a new DB coach and lots of new DBs, it is possible for the defense to right the ship and play better football. We’re not hoping the same guys magically improve. There were changes.

A couple of months from now we’ll find out if the right changes were made.

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Moffitt Officially Signed

Posted: June 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 177 Comments »

The Eagles added OG John Moffitt to the roster on Monday. He signed a minimum deal, but apparently there is an interesting angle to this.

So Moffitt wants to be in Philly. He must see the RG spot as wide open and possibly his best shot at becoming a starter in 2015.

I would also think his lifestyle changes would fit well with how the Eagles handle players. All the nutrition stuff will be good for him. Being in a locker room with high character guys puts him in a positive environment. And Moffitt is bound to be rusty so the best thing for him is lots of practice reps. No team gets as many practice reps as the Eagles.

Seems like a pretty smart move by Moffitt.

But let’s be careful before we turn him into something he’s not.

If this signing happened in early March, it wouldn’t have been much of a story. Because this is happening at a time when nothing is going on, it seems huge. Moffitt might be able to come in and win a starting job, but he also might struggle and get cut.

Moffitt is not the answer at RG. He’s part of the puzzle. Maybe he turns out to be the right piece. Just don’t think of him as the guy who will definitely win the job.

One thing I am curious about is his size. Moffitt was 6-4, 319 in the past. After being out of football and then going through Jay Glazer’s intense workouts, I would imagine he’s closer to 305 pounds, maybe less. If he’s around 300 pounds, that actually helps him in this offense. The Eagles aren’t a team that needs straight-ahead maulers. They run a zone scheme and Chip Kelly likes his OL to be able to move. Getting rid of some excess weight could help Moffitt to better fit this scheme.

I wrote a piece on his background last week.

This is a good move by the Eagles. They add a player with upside, but have no real investment in him. If Moffitt works out, great. If he fails, you just move on. I hope for the sake of Moffitt and the Eagles that he does work out.

* * * * *

If you want to watch Moffitt from his days at Wisconsin, he is the LG (#74) in this video.

* * * * *

To make room for Moffitt, the Eagles let go of Cole Manhart.

NO!!!!

I actually thought Manhart had the ability to challenge for a spot on the practice squad or even roster. Solid athlete with size and skill. Outstanding small school player who had a good showing in one pre-draft all-star game.

The Jared Wheeler era continues.

The John Moffitt era begins.

And alas, Cole Manhart is no more (as an Eagle…I’m assuming they didn’t kill him.).

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